DETROIT - The New York Yankees were given a second chance at survival and it came from a most unlikely of saviours and one who has been doing it all year.
Right-hander A.J. Burnett earned some redemption for an horrible year and gave the Yankees 52/3 innings of solid work Tuesday in Game 4 of the ALDS.
Former Tiger Curtis Granderson turned in a couple of defensive gems saving four runs and added some timely hitting.
They were life saving performances
The Yankees blew out the Tigers 10-1 at Comerica Park in front of 43,527 to tie the best-of-five series 2-2.
The deciding game is Thursday at Yankee Stadium.
Granderson has been a stud all year for the Yankees, but Burnett’s poor performance and big contract had earned him the enmity of not only opposing fans but Yankee fans as well.
It’s always a surprise what Burnett will bring when he comes out. Tuesday it looked as if it wasn’t going to be very good.
The Tigers had a chance to put the boots to Burnett in the first inning when the big right-hander threw the ball everywhere except over the plate. He walked the bases loaded.
With two out Don Kelly ripped a liner to straightaway centre field. Granderson took a step in and then had to hustle to make the catch over his head at full stretch. If the ball gets by him, it’s at least 3-0 Tigers.
“He hit it hard and right away I thought he hit it right to me,” Granderson said. “I took a step in and I froze and it caught some air. I didn’t want to leave my feet but I had to.
“At the end I felt great for A.J. because he goes in at the end of the inning tied 0-0. He could have been down 1, 2, 3-0 and who knows what happens then.”
Tigers manager Leyland called it the biggest play of the game.
“It’s funny, sometimes you pick a key out in the game and the key out in this one was in the fist inning,” he said. “Donnie Kelly smoked that ball and Grandy made a good play.”
Yankees manager Joe Girardi wasn’t taking any chances on Burnett. He had a pitcher up in the first inning.
“I wouldn’t have gotten him up (if I wasn’t thinking of making a move),” Girardi said.
The catch gave Burnett confidence. He came out from the second inning throwing strikes and the Yankees gave him some support.
Tigers starter Rick Porcello hit Jorge Posada with a pitch and Russell Martin singled. With one out Derek Jeter hit what looked like a catchable fly ball that drifted. Centre-fielder Austin Jackson never could catch up to it. Both runners scored.
“I was thrilled for him and thrilled for us, Girardi said. “What he did, going 52/3 only giving up one run … I was proud of what he did in a must win situation, pitched one of his best games of the year.”
Granderson made a spectacular diving catch on Jhonny Peralta saving another run in the sixth.
Porcello made his first post-season start. At 22 years, nine months and seven days old, he was the youngest pitcher in Tigers’ history to start a post-season game. He threw the ball well but had trouble closing batters out.
The Yankees sent 11 men to the plate in the eighth, scoring six more runs on seven hits to break the game open.
“It was a little nerve wracking in the first inning,” Burnett said. “I hadn’t been out in a while.”
It was a satisfying performance for Burnett. When he left the mound after being pulled, he smacked Girardi on the butt with his glove.
“It was probably a little ‘thank you,’ for all he’s done for me,” Burnett said. “He said he was extremely proud. Joe has had my back after all my ups and downs.”
The Tigers’ Doug Fister takes on Ivan Nova in New York in Thursday’s decider.